It was 18 years ago that my husband asked me:
“So what do you want to do for your 50th birthday? Have a party and stick around here OR go away (read: “run” away) on a trip?”
~ Well, that was an easy choice ~
And that’s how a travel plan was set in motion for a seven-day Alaska cruise followed by a 3-day train/land tour and a few days in Fairbanks.
We left Vancouver around 16th of May where the weather was cloudy and cold. But all that changed the further North we traveled.
I don’t have enough words to describe the feeling of sitting on the deck and just watch the incredible scenery go by as we slowly made our way to the Glacier Bay National Park.
The Captain of our cruise ship literally ‘parked’ the ship parallel to a glacier. The sun was shining and the wall of ice was blue. Everyone stayed on deck just ‘watching’ for the next big chunk of ice to separate from the glacier and fall into the water with a loud “Whoosh”.
It was an incredible sight, and even the Park Ranger (who had boarded the ship earlier) told us to never come back because we would never again see such a thing so perfectly.
Our cruise ended in Anchorage where we then boarded the train that would take us to Fairbanks.
~ This was no ordinary train ~
It was a luxurious domed rail car where you could relax, meet other passengers, but mostly watch the amazing landscape through large picture windows and the glassed ceiling.
I thought I would get bored. Boy, was I wrong. We were very lucky because the weather was great and we saw Alaska’s Mount McKinley very clearly for the whole train ride – which is unusual since it is the highest mountain in North America with its own weather system and is, most of the time, hidden in clouds and fog.
You do not sleep on this train. You get off at a specific hotel for the night and get back on later. So we booked a room at the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge where we spent two days and enjoyed the spectacular views, and even got to see bears in the wild. We boarded the train again and ended up in Fairbanks for 2 days.
~ We crossed the Arctic Circle ~
Once there, we decided to book a day tour that would take us to the Arctic Circle. What a fantastic and wonderful excursion! There is no public road beyond Fairbanks but we were allowed to travel on a private one that was used when the 800-mile long Trans Alaska Pipeline was built.
Our guide was very informative and we stepped out of our little bus often so he could show us interesting stuff. There was no snow at that time of the year and it was warm. But at one stop, our guide game me a hammer and told me to bang on the ground with it. It was hard as a rock. That’s because it’s permafrost which never melts, yet I was in shorts in May when we stopped at the Arctic Circle!
We visited the Arctic Circle Trading Post and we discovered how they use the frozen ground as a fridge. We learned a lot about the landscapes and the people who live in this environment.
We even receive our official Arctic Circle Adventure Certificate!
We came back late at night but in May the sun doesn’t fully set so at 1AM it wasn’t dark, really weird when you’re not used to it.
All in all, I’d say it was the best decision to run away on my 50th birthday and I will remember it with joy and fond memories forever.
If you are over 50, what did you do to celebrate that day? If you’re not there yet, what do you think you will want to do?